2019 Grinduro! Japan: No Day Like Today

WHEN

October 11-13, 2019

WHERE

Madarao Kogen Mountain Resort – Restaurant Heidi (also home to Madarao Forest Trails 50KM trail race during the prior weekend)

WHAT

Following a series of successful events in the United States, Canada, and Scotland, Grinduro! has now expanded to Japan!

Founding sponsor Giro was accompanied with global sponsors Fabric, Maxxis, and Rapha, as well as host brand Salsa Cycles, to present Grinduro!’s one-of-a-kind experience to the Shinetsu Area Trail in the heart of Nagano Prefecture. 

Known for “the perfect party-to-race ratio”, festival-like details are what make Grinduro! a revolutionary cycling experience. With its impressive display of art and music, excellent food, great people, and camping, it’s more than just a one-day cycling event.

Grinduro Japan wooden square cup
Grinduro sign
Grinduro Japan gear

Voted “Event of the Year” by the Design and Innovation Awards committee…the unique format of Grinduro combines the best elements of a mountain bike enduro with a gravel grinder-style road race. 

Wall of decorated Grinduro ema
Decorated Grinduro ema
Decorated ema wood plaques
Decorated Grinduro ema

ALL THE STUFF

  • Grinduro! water bottle
  • Grinduro!-edition Giro cycling socks
  • Meal tickets (Saturday breakfast/lunch/dinner; vegetarian option available)
  • Grinduro!-edition Rapha cycling musette shoulder bag
  • Sponsor goodies
  • Fabric bike cleaning towel 
  • Poncho (limited quantity)
  • Bib

Plus, a wooden plaque (ema) for Grinduro! participants to decorate and write messages on.

Grinduro! Japan and Grinduro! items such as sticker packs, lanyards, trucker hats, masu sake cups, tin badges, etc. were also available for purchase.

THE COURSE

Grinduro! is not a festival of suffering! With a mass start from Madarao Mountain Resort, the day then played out at a moderate pace with the course linking together local roads in a quiet corner of the Shinetsu area.

Since the race is only timed in specific segments, everyone has the chance to pedal alongside friends and heroes. The course featured a mix of surfaces (smooth pavement, gravel, and single track). Only four segments within the course were timed, and they’re all very different. In this way, Grinduro! rewards the most well-rounded of rouleurs.

Due to the forecast impact of Typhoon Hagibis, the organizers decided to shorten the course for all participants, regardless of their registered distance (80KM Grinduro or 40KM Grindurito).

2019 Grinduro Japan course map

The total length of the course was reduced to about 30KM and the route was modified to one more accommodating to riding in the rain. But make no mistake, the mountains were steep, the gravel was rough, and the trails were tough!

Grinduro Japan elevation profile

The race venue and start area over the course of 24 hours was a vivid demonstration of rapid atmospheric deterioration.

THE GOOD

  • They Came…more than 250 (out of approximately 450 registrants total) showed up to participate in the inaugural Grinduro! Japan despite the weather forecast
  • It Happened…the organizers opted to allow the event to happen in a shortened format for those travelling from near and far, which was thoughtful in its own way
  • The Food…not only were catered meals provided on Saturday, plus a dinner on Friday (albeit with not nearly enough food for staff) – the food was  seriously delicious and filling
  • Up to Date…the Facebook event page was updated frequently with informative updates. Emails (both English and Japanese) were more sporadic but I appreciated the due diligence. 

THE NOT SO GOOD

  • It Happened…the weather was not much of a factor until late afternoon on Saturday. Over the course of the day, the weather undeniably became more turbulent. One can’t help but wonder if it was really in anyone’s best interest to hold the event with Typhoon Hagibis looming and in light of myriad potential issues, including course safety, transportation, and accommodation. 
  • Accommodation…the steady rains and deteriorating terrains at the campgrounds and throughout the ski resort made campers a little wary of braving the elements. Many opted to find (and pay for the additional expense of) last-minute accommodation nearby, while others took advantage of an indoor space at the Restaurant Heidi opened up by the organizers and made available as a “Plan B” for campers.
Unique paintings for Grinduro Japan
Ground shot of muddy cyclists after Grinduro Japn
Cyclists cleaning bikes with hoses outside
  • Cold and Wet…Grinduro! is all about getting a little muddy in the rough and tumble but you had to be ready for the cold ‘shower’ (garden hoses outside) to clean up. Tickets to utilize the onsen at the nearby Madarao Kogen Resort Hotel were available for 800 yen but you still had to clean up before boarding the bus to the hotel and getting into the onsen. Brr! 
Cute autumn table decorations
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